So, Valve and Bethesda suddenly sprung a major change into the PC game modding scene, only to have it rightfully blow up in their faces. It’s an interesting time in the state of gaming when stereotypical ‘good guy’ devs like Valve and Bethesda are playing the role of the Fagin. Thing is, I don’t know why we were all shocked that A) This happened and B) It crashed and burned as badly as it did.
Steam Workshop is a funny old place. It’s a place where people can make custom in-game items for other people to enjoy. Most of the time, this takes the form of visual changes in the games like different costumes, but can stretch as far as interface plug-ins and HUD modifiers. It’s a hotbed for creativity and allows the modding community to thrive. Then, Valve and Bethesda double-teamed players of Skyrim when they forcibly introduced a paid mod scheme without prior notice or any testing periods. That was their first mistake.
Given the choice, the consensus amongst gamers was that if a mod was good, they would wish to help out the mods creator with monetary aid. An often cited fix to this system that was suggested in the comments to Valve’s blog post about the system was to offer a donation button to the creator rather than boil down the market to a selection of overly-divided micro-transactions. The fact that what we got was a way for Valve and Bethesda to profit from work that they had had no part in meant that the system could not exist in any way, resulting in a shame-ridden admission of defeat from both companies a mere four days after the launch of the initiative.
There are noticeable exceptions to the rule. The LittleBigPlanet games give players the full set of level creation tools and basic coding abilities and some of the results of this have resulted in full games within the LBP engine, as well as incredibly well designed levels following the more traditional sidescroller format. And if we’re talking about paid content, games like Warframe make it possible to purchase in game items, weapons and characters with real money whilst also making 100% of this content obtainable without spending a single penny. Instead, their incremental free updates focus on introducing new play styles, characters, skills, weapons and GUI improvements, rather than developing this content into paid DLC packages.
The idea of idle profit from a company that makes plenty of profit as it is simply a step too far for Valve. At least Bethesda actually do make a great deal of content to begin with, regardless of the past backlash over their own DLC. If you want to support a modder, donate to that modder; Help them out with bills or tuition or food stamps or whatever. Make life better for the person who has improved your game. Do not line the pockets of a company who already makes billions of dollars just because they offered a platform for innovation that has already netted them millions or billions of dollars as it is.
Bottom line is this: I think everyone would have acted with a little less vitriol if we'd been so much as asked about this before it was slammed into our faces. Come on, Valve. Seriously, Bethesda. For companies who claim to hear what we want, you'll just as quickly sell out the people who work the hardest to show their passion if you think there's money to be made. We want good games, not another market to manage.
The Editor in Chief of Foul Entertainment, Mike edits most of what you see on the site. He runs the production of our podcasts, and currently pens Pop Culture Club and The Death of Video Games.